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Jewish Group Considers Legal Action Following Revelations About Ford Funding

October 22, 2003
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In the wake of revelations that the Ford Foundation is spending millions to fund organizations engaged in anti-Israel agitation, the American Jewish Congress is considering legal action against the Ford Foundation or relevant government agencies to enforce charitable financing laws.

“Congress should examine the tax-exempt status of organizations such as Ford Foundation,” AJCongress’ executive director, Neil Goldstein, said in a news release.

The AJCongress statement cited the JTA series “Funding Hate,” which documents the Ford Foundation’s extensive funding of radical Palestinian non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.

“The purpose of the tax-exemption cannot be to finance terrorists and terror-related activities,” Goldstein said.

No evidence has emerged linking Ford’s grant making to terrorists, although one of several Ford-funded Palestinian Web sites,, linked directly to the Web sites of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups on the State Department’s list of Palestinian terrorist groups.

Within hours of the publication of JTA’s four-part series, removed both the links to terrorist groups and its section “From Revolution to Revolution,” both of which were cited in the JTA investigation.

“We have only begun to look at the implications raised by this series,” said AJCongress’ general counsel, Marc Stern.

Stern said he was studying the possibility of filing a lawsuit. “Was this funding in compliance with the government anti-terrorism regulations?”

“A more important set of issues,” Stern pointed out, is that the Ford Foundation board “represents a fairly small sliver of American society. Yet they control huge monies, huge prestige and engage in protected action which does not represent the American consensus. They refuse to answer questions, they are not accountable to anyone but themselves — and all this raises important issues of public policy. Those issues are raised in spades.”

Stern said his group was still “down the road before making up our minds, but we are examining the possibility of filing a lawsuit against Ford or the government to enforce relevant laws. We are examining that right now.”

AJCongress specifically cited a presidential executive order that requires Palestinian NGOs that get U.S. funding to certify that none of their funds have made or will make their way to organizations that “advocate or support terrorist activities.”

Ford’s press relations office — normally manned by media staffers — was being answered by an answering machine for days after the series broke last week, and officials there could not be reached for comment.

One senior Ford official who was contacted by telephone said he would not comment for the record and hung up.

Meanwhile, the New Israel Fund, the recipient of a recently announced $20 million, 5-year grant from the foundation, said it would function independently as it finances social-action activities in Israel.

The Ford-NIF partnership calls for the newly created “donor-advised” peace and social justice fund to be overseen by Aaron Back, Ford’s program officer for Israel, who just left the foundation to become a consultant to the NIF-Ford partnership.

Asked if NIF would be a conduit for Ford’s designated recipients that have engaged in anti-Israel activity, NIF board president Peter Edelman said, “No, because the grants will be made under our supervision and we will only approve grants to organizations that are not opposed to the State of Israel as a democratic Jewish state.”

Edelman also said that the money from Ford “comes to us in a chunk; they can’t take it back. There is a Ford Foundation representative on the advisory group. But that advisory group has no legal power. They can’t make a grant, only our board can — and they can’t take the money back.”

Ford’s $20 million is scheduled to be transferred in a single payment sometime in November, according to NIF sources.

Edelman said the new NIF-Ford funds would “absolutely not” be directed to Ford-funded Palestinian NGOs, such as LAW and the Palestinian NGO network, which have agitated virulently against Israel.

“We are a fervently pro-Israel organization,” Edelman said. “We will be giving money to groups who are Israeli and which are seeking a Jewish democratic Israel.”

Edelman declined to comment on Ford’s funding of anti-Israeli groups.”We have received Ford Foundation grants for 15 years,” he said. “That is all I can comment on.”

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